The new Escorpion Tequila Bar & Cantina is located in Midtown Atlanta at 800 Peachtree Street (in the former ENO space, near the Fox Theatre).
On a recent Friday evening the vibe was energetic, radiating from the large bar that's positioned front and center.
The goal for the bar, lunch and dinner menus at Escorpion is to serve authentic Mexican flavors.
The kitchen is led by executive chef Edgar Cruz, who previously worked at Fifth Group Restaurants, Aquanox and Restaurant Eugene in Atlanta and Gramercy Tavern and Daniel in New York.
Behind the bar are mixologists Adam Fox (formerly of Flat Iron Lounge in New York) and Gilbert Marquez (a Native American from the Yaqui tribe who specializes in Mexican cocktails).
We started with “Lil’ Florida Daisy," made with reposado tequila, grapefruit juice, maraschino cherry liqueur, lemon juice, sugar, orange and whisky barrel bitters, and "El Chamucho" made with blanco tequila, ginger, blackberries, lime, creme de cassis and sage. Both are top sellers and one sip confirms the distinction is warranted (all cocktails are $10, except the most basic margarita which is $8).
Owner Riccardo Ullio stopped by our table and recommended that we try a ceviche. His favorite is the octopus, which is made with grapefruit, lime and habanero. While that does sound delicious, I was more intrigued by the Hamachi ceviche, which pairs the fish with pineapple, jicama and serrano ($8):
It was indeed tasty, but I'm not a true fan of cold fish and so while eating it I thought I'd like to try to make a vegan version of this dish. (And during "peach week" I did.)
For dinner we ordered a cheese chile relleno ($8), pork tamale with green mole ($4), Seta taco ($3.50) which features portobello, poblano, corn, onion and cotija cheese, and a carne asada taco made with hanger steak, onion, jalapeno and salsa verde ($4). (Pictured clockwise from top left:)All fresh and delicious with top-quality ingredients. The pork tamale had an impressive quantity of meat. The relleno was addictive. But it was the seta taco that truly stole my taste buds' affections--I can't wait to go back and get a plate of 4 for $12.50 and savor them all.
Between the tres leches cake and flan dessert options--of course I tried both--I preferred the flan, which was perfectly dense and offered rich caramel notes. This admission surprised owner Riccardo Ullio, who said that the tres leches cake is his favorite dessert on any menu at all three of his restaurants. (So, if you happen to spot a handsome bald man eyeing the room while devouring a piece of this cake, it might be him.)
One wall of the restaurant features framed matador jackets. Were they used in a bull fight? Perhaps: Close inspection reveals a dented button:
Escorpion is the latest venture of chef-restaurateur Riccardo Ullio, who also operates Sotto Sotto and Fritti. For more information visit urestaurants.net.